by Carol Ko
, Staff Writer | July 09, 2013
Ongoing debate around EHR's cost savings potential hasn't kept hospitals from adopting the technology at a rapid rate, according to a new report co-authored by Mathematica Policy Research and Harvard School of Public Health.
In 2012, 44 percent of hospitals reported having a basic EHR — up 17 percent from 2011. Since 2010, the proportion of hospitals with basic EHR systems has tripled.
Providers are also using HIT tools in greater numbers now, with 42 percent of hospitals reporting that they met the stage one standards for Meaningful Use criteria, a big leap from just 4.4 percent in 2010.
Michael Painter, senior program officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, is confident that by next year's report, over 50 percent of hospitals will be meeting stage one meaningful use criteria, at the very least.
Though only 4 percent of hospitals currently meet stage 2 requirements, this is already rapidly in the process of changing. "Those numbers are a moving target and they're moving in the right direction," Painter told DOTmed News.
What's more, smaller, rural hospitals that were slower in the beginning to implement EHRs, compared with larger urban hospitals, are now outpacing their urban counterparts in adoption, swiftly closing the digital disparity between the two. A significant portion of the $30 billion in incentives and support for EHR adoption under the 2009 HITECH Act goes specifically toward rural and medically underserved communities, and the numbers seem to confirm that the program is working as intended, according to the report.
But providers have a way to go before they're able to fully take advantage of the benefits of EHR systems, researchers note.
For example, only twenty-seven percent of hospitals are participating in health information exchange initiatives — up from 14 percent in 2010.
Health information exchange systems enable individual patient data to be pulled up no matter where the patient goes, like an online bank account.
"We have this electronic health record in my office, but the information should really follow the patient. They move around, they travel, and the hope is that when you went to a specialist across town they would pull up your information — that's the big challenge," Painter said.
Currently there are 119 health information exchanges across the country, but the stability of their day-to-day operations is undermined by funding instability, since they operate solely on grants.
"Competitor hospitals have to agree this is a common problem and build an information infrastructure. We have a huge policy challenge to drive that next wave of sharing that information all over the place," Painter said.
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